The role of knowledge management in stimulating innovation in the construction industry

Mulder, Hardus (2008-12)

Thesis (MBA (Business Management))--Stellenbosch University, 2008.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Because Knowledge Management (KM) is seen as the process of formalizing activities relating to the creation and sharing of knowledge in an organization, it is often seen as a hindrance to innovation. Innovation is perceived as the domain of free-thinkers, who are not tied down by formal processes and paperwork, but who allow their imagination to roam free and can conceptualize exciting new ideas. Because of this, organizations which have a very formal KM system often argue that they cannot be innovative, while those organizations which see themselves as innovative are afraid to introduce a KM system, because they are afraid that they will lose some of their freedom. In reality, this view is not strictly correct. While a KM system does require some processes to be formalized, it does not necessarily have to mean the end of innovation. In fact, it can assist innovation in a number of ways. By making knowledge available to a larger part of the organization, more employees are empowered to become innovative. KM systems do this by making knowledge regarding processes, procedures, and products available to employees. In addition, KM systems can assist in ensuring collaboration between various employees in an organization, as well as between employees of different organizations. When these diverse people combine their knowledge, innovation can occur more easily than when a single individual attempts to innovate. KM Systems can also assist innovation by putting knowledge-seekers in contact with the relevant holders of knowledge. When new innovations are first brought into a company, a proper KM system can assist with the dissemination of information regarding these innovations. In this way innovations are easily and quickly diffused in a company. The construction industry is typically a projects-based environment, where teams are created and disbanded on a continuous basis. Because of this project-orientated nature, a lot of innovation takes place because project teams are forever faced with new challenges. At the same time, the fact that teams are seldom maintained after the completion of a project, makes the use of a good KM system all the more relevant, to ensure that knowledge and learning is made available throughout the organization. The construction industry is also very fragmented and, in order to ensure collaboration between various role players, a good KM system should enable employees from different companies to work together across company borders. The role of management in ensuring the success of KM and innovation is vital. Management needs to be seen as providing the thrust for using the KM system, as well as for being innovative and ensuring that the organisation remains open to learning and new ideas. For innovations and KM to be effective in the construction industry, there are a number of prerequisites, not least of which is the culture of the organisation, which should be one of innovation, learning and openness to new ideas.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Omdat Kennisbestuur (KB) gesien word as die proses van formalisering van aktiwiteite wat te doen het met die skep en deel van kennis in 'n organisasie, word dit dikwels gesien as 'n klip in die pad van innovasie. Innovasie word gesien as die area van vrye denkers, wat nie teruggehou word deur formele prosesse en papierwerk nie, maar wat hulle verbeelding vrye teuels gee en wat opwindende nuwe idees kan uitdink. As gevolg hiervan dink organisasies wat 'n baie formele KB stelsel het dikwels dat hulle nie kan innoveer nie, terwyl die organisasies wat hulleself sien as innoverend, dikwels versigtig is om 'n KB stelsel te implimenteer, omdat hulle bang is dat hulle 'n deel van hulle vryheid sal verloor. In werklikheid is dit nie reg nie. Terwyl 'n KB stelsel vereis dat sommige prosesse geformaliseer word, beteken dit nie noodwendig die einde van innovasie nie. Trouens, dit kan innovasie aanmoedig op verskeie maniere. Deur kennis meer beskikbaar te maak aan 'n groter deel van die organisasie, word meer werknemers in staat gestel om innoverend te wees. KB stelsels doen dit deur kennis aangaande prosesse, prosedures en produkte toeganklik te maak vir werknemers. KB stelsels kan ook help om samewerking te verseker, beide tussen werknemers van dieselfde organisasie en werknemers van verskillende organisasies. Wanneer die diverse mense hulle kennis saamvoeg, geskied innovasie makliker as wanneer een individu probeer om te innoveer. KB stelsels kan ook innovasie aanhelp deur die kennis soekers in verbinding te stel met die relevante houers van kennis. Wanneer nuwe innovasie die eerste keer in 'n maatskappy inkom, kan 'n ordentlike KB stelsel help met die verspreiding van die kennis aangaande die innovasie. Op die manier word innovasies maklik en vinnig opgeneem in 'n organisasie. Die konstruksie industrie is tipies 'n projek gebaseerde omgewing, waar spanne geskep en ontknoop word op 'n voortdurende basis. As gevolg van die projekgeorienteerdheid, gebeur 'n klomp innovasie, omdat projek spanne heeltyd nuwe uitdagings moet oorkom. Terselfdertyd maak die feit dat spanne selde bymekaar bly na afloop van 'n projek, die gebruik van 'n goeie KB stelsel nog meer relevant, om te verseker dat kennis en leer deur die organisasie beskikbaar is. Die konstruksie industrie is ook baie gefragmenteer, en om samewerking tussen die onderskeie rolspelers te verseker, behoort 'n goeie KB stelsel werknemers van verskillende maatskappye in staat te stel om saam te werk. Die rol van bestuur om te verseker dat KB en innovasie 'n sukses is, is uiters belangrik. Bestuur moet gesien word as toegewyd aan die gebruik van die KB stelsel, sowel as aan innovasie en om seker te maak dat die organisasie ontvanklik bly vir leer en nuwe idees. Vir innovasie en KB om effektief te wees in die konstruksie industrie, is daar 'n aantal voorvereistes, waarvan die kultuur van die organisasie een is. Die kultuur behoort een van innovasie, leer en openheid vir nuwe idees te wees.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/5043
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